Anti-bullying experts today condemned two commercial television networks for their handling of a bullying story involving two Sydney high school students.
Channel Nine’s A Current Affair and Channel Seven’s Today Tonight have run exclusive interviews with the two students who appear in a YouTube video that has been seen by millions of people around the world.
Child psychologist and spokesman for the National Centre Against Bullying, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, has slammed the media’s treatment of the incident.
He says the way the networks are handling the story is reprehensible and could put the students involved at serious risk of further violence.
The video that went viral almost immediately shows a 12-year-old student jeering and punching a bigger and older student until the older student snaps and picks up his tormentor and throws him to the ground.
The video captured on mobile phone has now been seen by millions of people and has made national and international headlines.
Coverage rights of the incident was also the subject of fierce competition between the Nine and Seven networks.
On Sunday night, Nine’s A Current Affair interviewed Casey, the older student in the video.
“He just came up out of nowhere and grabbed me by the shirt and then he punched me in the face, then he goes for a second hit. I blocked it and then a third hit, I don’t know if he connected, and then fourth he kicked, trying to hit me,” Casey told the program.
And then last night Today Tonight followed, with an interview with 12-year-old Richard, who told his side of the story.
“He abused me first,” Richard told the program.
“He was like, ‘oh get to class you idiot’, all that kind of stuff.”
Richard has denied instigating the fight.
“Yeah that’s slack. That’s what he’s trying to say to get everyone to stick up for him.”
Dr Carr-Gregg says the two networks have gone too far and should have protected the identity of the two students.
“The fact that the identity of both parties has not been protected by the media is simply inexcusable, primarily because I think there’s very real dangers – not just in terms of inviting retaliation – but in terms of what this might do the young people’s mental health long-term,” he said.
He says the extensive coverage of the story will also setback efforts to tackle bullying in schools.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this video and the attention that it has gained runs a very serious risk of normalising, glamorising and sanitising a hit-back mentality,” he said.
“The research from the Institute of Criminology is quite clear that young people who do hit back are over two times more likely to suffer physical retribution themselves.”
Brett Murray runs anti-bullying courses in primary and high schools around the country and says he is not surprised the video and story of the two students is staying in the headlines
“It just shows that there’s such an interest because there is such a problem,” he said.
“Bullying isn’t just one off stuff that used to happen in the playground, 50 or even 30 years ago, it is actually an ongoing culture we have in our high schools and primary schools right around the country now, which unfortunately it’s taken two kids to be victimised through this.
“But I think the positive we can take out of it is that the nation is talking about it and wanting something done.”
Mr Murray agrees the story has run its course and the two students should now be left alone.
The World Today has sought a response from Channel Nine and Seven but both networks have declined to comment.